Well, it’s over. The NFL’s 100th season has come and gone. If you’re a Chiefs fan you might still be riding that championship high, but for the rest of us, the sun has set on another year of football. I already know what you’re going to say: “I don’t care who I’m watching, I just want more football.”I just may have a solution. So fear not, because as one day dusks, a new one dawns. Welcome to the XFL.
The XFL was originally conceived by pro-wrestling promoter Vince McMahon in 2001 as a more ‘intense’ alternative to the National Football League. Back then, the League only managed one 10-game season (along with a two round, three game postseason) before ultimately collapsing due to a mixture of monetary struggles and lack of viewership. McMahon lost $35 million and the whole endeavour was labelled one of the worst commercial failures in sports history.
Sixteen years later, ESPN made a documentary entitled “This Was the XFL,” during which Vince McMahon contemplated the idea of reviving the league with obvious reconsideration to how it would be managed. Fast forward to the modern day and that plan is actually in action. After nearly a year of preparations, the organization kicked off Saturday, Feb. 8. For all of you who did not watch this weekend’s action, here’s what you need to know.
The XFL (which does not formally stand for anything, although many assume it is implied to be the eXtreme Football League) consists of eight teams: the Dallas Renegades, the Houston Roughnecks, the Los Angeles Wildcats, the Seattle Dragons, the Washington DC Defenders, the New York Guardians, the St. Louis Battlehawks and the Tampa Bay Vipers, half of which simply use the football stadiums for the NFL team that also calls their city home (Seattle, New York, Tampa Bay and St Louis). There is also a technical “Team 9,” which is a practice squad that is open for use by all teams and is located in Arlington, Texas.
The hope is that this will blow the standard playbook wide open, allowing for more dynamic players, the likes of which don’t truly exist in the NFL.
Right off the bat, this is a game of football: all standard game rules apply. However, there are some facets of the game that the XFL is trying to improve upon. Unlike the AFA (American Association of Football) or NFL, the XFL is attempting to rework the kickoff as an integral part of the game. To do this, the league has stipulated that stronger punts (i.e. ones that don’t bounce upon entering the endzone) give the other team possession at the 35, while bouncing balls give them possession at the 15. Theoretically, what this does is to try and force more onside kicks, making the game more suspenseful and dynamic.
But that’s a minor change compared to the way that the League has overhauled the offense. Teams are now permitted to attempt two forward passes from behind the line of scrimmage per play. The hope is that this will blow the standard playbook wide open, allowing for more dynamic players, the likes of which don’t truly exist in the NFL.
Other major changes have been made to scoring. Extra points by kicking have been entirely eliminated. Instead, the XFL has expanded upon the two-point conversion. After a touchdown, a team may line up at either the two, five or 10-yard line and attempt to run a play that would score them one, two, or three points respectively.
The first season will last for 10 weeks, during which, each team will host five games. This creates over two months of viable football viewing — enough to hold anyone over until baseball season starts.
Personally, I have already selected a team to root for and I suggest you do the same. Although startup football leagues have had a rocky history that is constantly overshadowed by the NFL, the idea is genuine. People want to watch football, and lesser known players want to be watched. I’m not telling you to go paint your face and move to Tampa Bay or St. Louis, but if you truly do miss North America’s favorite game, and find yourself with nothing better to watch on a Saturday or Sunday night, perhaps you should keep the XFL in mind.
Matthew Shimkonis is a first-year student majoring in history. MS925373@wcupa.edu.